Ombre Embroidery Sampler Tutorial

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth

I love ombre. Whether it’s on a dress, or on a wall, I just love the effect. And for a while now I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating an ombre embroidery sampler.

(I should add here that WordPress wants me to correct “ombre” to “hombre”. I think that would be a very different piece of embroidery.)

What’s great about this piece is that you could achieve very different effects by changing the thread colours, or even the background fabric. For a really dramatic look, you could try pink threads on a black background, or else orange on white would have great retro look.

If you’d like to make a sampler of your own, here’s what you need:

A piece of natural cotton-linen blend fabric, at least 20x25cm (8×10″)
15cm (6″) embroidery hoop
Size 4 or 6 embroidery/crewel needle
Sharp embroidery scissors
Water-soluble fabric marker
Line Placement guide
Stranded embroidery thread in five shades (unfortunately I’ve misplaced my threads, so I’m not sure exactly which colours I used – but just pick five shades that form a nice colour run).

Hints: You can use any type of fabric, but working with an evenweave fabric such as linen means you can stitch along the grainlines to achieve a neat, straight result.

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth

Getting started
Firstly, if you’re worried about your fabric fraying, you can stitch along the edges with a zigzag stitch the secure them. Next, fold your piece of fabric in half so that the two long edges meet. Press the fold with your fingers so that the centre line is marked with a crease. Crease the horizontal centre line in the same way.

Using the water-soluble marker, rule a line down the length of the fabric, 5cm (2″) away from the long centre line. Make sure it runs long the grainline of the fabric. Rule a second line the same distance away on the other side of the centre line.

Print out the line placement guide. Tape it onto a lightbox or bright window, and tape the fabric over the top. The lines you just marked should line up with the vertical lines, and the line marked with the arrows should align with the horizontal centre line.

At this point you have a choice. You can either mark the full length of the lines using the water-soluble marker, or you can just mark the starting points down the left-hand line and work across the grainline to the other side when you stitch. I chose the second method, but it’s completely up to you.

The last thing you need to do before you start stitching is mount the fabric in the hoop. You’ll note that the whole design won’t quite fit in the hoop, so just start with the hoop at the top and move it down as necessary. If you’re using a bigger piece of fabric, you can obviously use a bigger hoop, in which case you won’t need to move anything.

It’s important that the fabric is mounted drum-tight in the hoop, so that you don’t get puckered fabric when you stitch. To do this, it helps to have a good quality hoop that you can tighten with a screw, and bind the inner ring (you can find a good tutorial on this here). Put the fabric in the hoop, and tighten the screw almost all the way. Then pull the fabric along the straight grain (horizontally and vertically) until it’s as tight as you can get it. I find it helpful to put my hoop on the edge of the table and hold it in place with one hand while I use the other to pull down on the fabric. Finally, tighten the screw all the way.

As much as possible, try to start your embroidery with an away waste knot and finish by weaving the thread tail into the back of your stitching. I found with some stitches, such as scroll and coral stitch, this was really difficult as there was so little stitching to weave through on the back. I just had to start and finish these stitches with a regular knot – it’s considered such a no-no, but sometimes you just have to do these things!

It’s also important to work with short lengths of thread so that the thread doesn’t get tangled and worn. I usually measure lengths from my hand to my elbow.

Take your embroidery threads and organise them in colour order, so that the lightest thread is Colour A, and the darkest thread is Colour E. Then you can start stitching! You might find it easy to print out this picture to refer back to when you’re stitching, so you know which stitch is which.

I won’t go through the stitches step by step, as there are so many better resources out there. I always refer back to Country Bumpkin’s fantastic A-Z of Embroidery Stitches and A-Z of Embroidery Stitches 2, as their instructions are so easy to follow (full disclosure: I used to work for them until recently, but I was a big fan of the books long before that). If you can’t get hold of the books, there are also some great resources online, such as Sharon B’s stitch dictionary and Needle ‘n’ Thread’s stitch videos.

I worked all my stitches along the grainline, and over either 5 or 10 fabric threads to make sure they stayed an even length. It’s also important to pay attention to what’s happening to the thread on the back of your work as, especially with six strands, it’s easy for the thread to get all knotted and tangled.

Row 1: Running stitch – 6 strands of colour A
Row 2: Back stitch – 4 strands of colour A, 2 strands of colour B
Row 3: Split stitch – 2 strands of colour A, 4 strands of colour B
Row 4: Stem stitch – 6 strands of colour B
Row 5: Coral stitch – 4 strands of colour B, 2 strands of colour C
Row 6: Scroll stitch – 2 strands of colour B, 4 strands of colour C
Row 7: Palestrina stitch – 6 strands of colour C
Row 8: Cable chain stitch – 4 strands of colour C, 2 strands of colour D
Row 9: Chain stitch – 2 strands of colour C, 4 strands of colour D
Row 10: Whipped back stitch – 6 strands of colour D
Row 11: Portuguese knotted stem stitch – 4 strands of colour D, 2 strands of colour E
Row 12: Heavy chain stitch – 2 strands of colour D, 4 strands of colour E
Row 13: Hungarian braided chain stitch – 6 strands of colour E

And there you have it! To finish, all you need to do is wash in cold water to rinse out the water-soluble marker, and leave flat to dry. To display the piece, I laced it over a piece of acid-free mountboard and placed it in a ready-bought frame. This tutorial gives you a good idea of how to do this, although I omitted the wadding, and also used pins along the edge to hold my fabric in place.

Ombre Sampler Tutorial by needle&cloth


7 Comments on “Ombre Embroidery Sampler Tutorial”

  1. Hi Jessica,

    That is fantastic, and I bet quick! I love the subtle shading of colour combined with the density and weight of the different stitches. Very effective. Anna x

  2. PaperBeau says:

    that’s just gorgeous!

  3. Ellaine says:

    Love this idea – what a great way to add an extra touch of colour and texture to a room!

  4. Sara says:

    So Beautiful Jessica. I love it.

  5. Patti B says:

    As someone just starting with embroidery, I think this will be a great way for me to show off the stitches as I “get” them – what an awesome idea!

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